As our countdown to the FIFA World Cup edges closer, we examine the stats behind the Socceroos’ success in their penalty shootout against Peru last month.
With Andrew Redmayne being brought on to face the penalties in the shootout, the Socceroos instantly had a psychological advantage heading into the deciding kicks, as explained by goalkeeping coach John Crawley.
In the shootout, the Socceroos were instantly presented with a statistical advantage in taking the first kick. In an investigation by Dr Ignacio Palacio-Huerta of the London School of Economics, he analysed 1,000 penalties from previous World Cups and European Championships to look, amongst other things, at the potential historical advantage of going first or second in the shootout.
He found that teams who take the first penalty in the shootout win 60% of the time, with teams going second winning 40% of the time, meaning, based on statistical history, the Socceroos had the upper hand from the beginning.
Martin Boyle began the shootout but couldn’t convert to open the scoring for the Green and Gold.
He took his penalty to the middle left at a middle height, which has an overall goal-scoring percentage of 80.6% (all overall goal-scoring percentages from The Stats Zone).
For Peru, Gianluca Lapadula dispatched a good penalty into the left-hand side of the goal at a middle height, a target which has an 84.4% success rate when being aimed at.
Aaron Mooy opened the scoring for Australia in their second penalty with a similarly placed shot to Lapadula’s finish, before Alexander Callens put Peru back in the lead as his effort went to the opposite side of the goal - an area which has a 75.0% conversion rate.
Craig Goodwin stepped up to take Australia’s third penalty and performed a different run-up to the four previous takers.
Thus far, all penalty-takers had performed an even, 5-6 pace run-up, which, according to analysis from Mike Hughes and Julia Wells, has the highest success ratios.
However, Goodwin opted for a stuttering run-up consisting of over six paces with the goal of confusing the goalkeeper, and it worked in abundance, with the winger sending Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese while thumping the penalty home.
For Peru, Luis Advíncula opted for another adaptation to running up, performing nine very small paces before his strike.
Throughout the shootout and continuing on into the remaining penalties, Redmayne had been performing his now world-famous wiggles routine in goal, in an attempt to distract opponents in the vulnerable moments when running up to strike the ball.
In doing so, he presented the Socceroos with an advantage - according to studies from Geir Jordet, distracting behaviours from goalkeepers can result in a 10% decrease in kickers scoring.
Advíncula hit the post off his strike, and Australia was now back in the shootout.
For the Socceroos, Ajdin Hrustić stepped up to propel the Green and Gold into the lead for the first time in the shootout, with the midfielder finding the bottom right corner cleverly.
Peru responded with Renato Tapia finding the back of the net before Jamie Maclaren resumed to the 4-6 even-paced run-up that was prevalent earlier in the shootout while finding the bottom left corner - an average success rate of 78.9%.
Edinson Flores converted for Peru to draw the scores level as the shootout now headed into sudden death.
Peru goalkeeper Gallese took the mind games up a notch for Awer Mabil’s penalty, as he attempted to put off the winger by delaying his kick.
Gallese attempted to get in Mabil’s head through the wait, but the Socceroo responded cleverly, taking the time to move back towards the ball to keep its feel before readjusting his run-up to take control of the situation.
He put off Gallese with his uneven three-paced run-up and converted to give Australia the advantage.
On Peru’s sixth and ultimately last penalty, Redmayne attempted and prevailed in a similar tactic, waiting for taker Alex Valera to make his run-up before moving away from the goal to delay the kick.
Valera didn’t respond, instead remaining in place with his run-up with Redmayne cleverly gaining a statistical advantage through the 18-second wait between Valera placing the ball down and beginning his run-up.
After waits of that length, a kicker has 20% less chance of scoring (according to studies from Geir Jordet), and Redmayne combined this clever delay with his wiggles routine to make one of the biggest saves in Australian football history.
Penalties are moments of razor-thin margins, but it was the Socceroos side being well coached and versed in the art of attempting and responding to shootout tactics that secured the Green and Gold’s place in their fifth-consecutive FIFA World Cup.